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Summary Article: Jefferies, (John) Richard (1848–1887)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English naturalist and writer. His books on the countryside include Gamekeeper at Home (1878), The Life of the Fields (1884), and his best-known collection of essays, The Open Air (1885). Bevis: The Story of a Boy (1882) is a nostalgic novel of the countryside. Story of My Heart (1883) is an autobiographical study.

In depicting the countryside and wildlife surviving in the face of modern civilization, there have been few English novelists to equal Jefferies. His work underwent a critical revaluation in the later 20th century and is often compared with that of Thomas Hardy.

Life Jefferies was born near Swindon, the son of a farmer. His father and a keeper on a neighbouring estate introduced him to a love of nature and taught him to use his powers of observation. He started work as a journalist on the North Wiltshire Herald, which he edited from 1866–67, and afterwards wrote for the Pall Mall Gazette, where his Gamekeeper at Home and Wild Life in a Southern County (1879) first appeared.

Work Other books followed, including The Amateur Poacher (1879), Wood Magic (1881), Round About a Great Estate (1880), The Open Air (with a Brighton and Beachy Head background), Hodge and His Masters (1880), Nature near London (1883), and Amaryllis at the Fair (1887). The Life of the Fields includes one of his finest essays, ‘Clematis Lane’. Fields and Hedgerow was published after his death, in 1948. Among his novels is After London, or Wild England (1885), a romance of the future when London has ceased to exist.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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